When God Breaks Your Ships

When God Breaks Your Ships

God, in order to show His power and grace upon Israel, made King Solomon the richest man of his day. Solomon’s life reads like a catalogue of splendor—huge banquets, large palaces, a thriving economy, a powerful military. The writer in 1 Kings 10 records:

The weight of gold which came in to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold, besides that from the traders and the wares of the merchants and all the kings of the Arabs and the governors of the country … Solomon made 200 large shields of beaten gold … the king made a great throne of ivory and overlaid it with refined gold … King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold … none was of silver; it was not considered valuable in the days of Solomon.

Where did all this come from? As part of this wealth-gathering program, Solomon “had at sea the ships of Tarshish with the ships of Hiram; once every three years the ships of Tarshish came bringing gold and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks” (1 Kings 10:22).

But, about sixty years later—a short enough period of time that a few royal advisors could probably remember King Solomon’s reign—King Jehoshaphat failed in the same effort. “Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber” (1 Kings 22:48).

Why does God bless the efforts of one, and obstruct the efforts of another? God loved Jehoshaphat just as much as He loved Solomon, maybe even more. God made the same promise of provision to both, as kings in the line of David. So why did God destroy Jehoshaphat’s ships before they left the port?

When we read the parallel account in Chronicles carefully, we discover that God was keeping Jehoshaphat away from greater catastrophic destruction:

Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel. He acted wickedly in so doing. So, he allied himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat saying, “Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the LORD has destroyed your works.” So, the ships were broken and could not go to Tarshish (2 Chronicles 20:35-37)

You see, God can bless His children with success, and He can also bless His children with failure. God did not want King Jehoshaphat of Judah getting caught up in a relationship with wicked King Ahaziah of Israel. The ships promised financial gain, but threatened spiritual ruin. God loved Jehoshaphat enough to cause him to fail!

Who knows what calamity God used to destroy the ships—a faulty design, a great storm, a fire, a surprise Edomite attack. Whatever the case, I’m sure that Jehoshaphat was initially very upset. Surely, he had a lot of time and money and hope invested in the ships. But thankfully he realized (with the prophet Eliezer’s help) that God blocked his way to prevent him from walking down a sinful road. Jehoshaphat learned his lesson and told wicked King Ahaziah to take a hike (1 Kings 22:49).

We don’t succeed at everything we attempt. A business flops, a job offer is rescinded, a home is taken off the market, a plan to move fails, a request for credit is denied, a promising dating relationship fizzles. We wonder if God is mad at us. But maybe God is obstructing our efforts for a benevolent reason. The author George MacDonald opined, “In whatever man does without God, he must fail miserably, or succeed more miserably.” Not every win is a blessing.

Next time you begin to consider an endeavor—a new job, a new home, a new car—pray to God, “Lord, help me to succeed. But, Lord, if I’m pursuing a course against you, cause me to fail. Break my ships if necessary to get me back on the right path.” In any case, don’t allow the ups and downs of life dictate your faith and obedience to God.

Satan blesses for a season, but God blesses forever! He promises that He’s doing the right thing for you (Rom. 8:28).        

 —John Guzzetta